Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: 1571-1610

the-cardsharps-i-bari-caravaggioBorn in Milan, Italy on September 29, 1571, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is considered one of the first great painters of the Baroque school and a revolutionary figure in European art.

Caravaggio trained in Milan under the Lombard painter Simone Peterzano, a pupil of Titian – the leading painter of the 16th century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance.

In 1592, Caravaggio fled Milan for Rome after becoming involved in a quarrel that resulted in the wounding of a police officer.  With next to no money to survive, he found work with Giuseppe Cesari – Pope Clement VIII’s favourite painter.  Here, he painted flowers and fruit in a factory-like workshop until 1594.

Carvaggio’s luck changed in 1595 when Cardinal Francesco del Monte became his patron, taking him into his house.  Here Caravaggio received his first public commissions which made him popular in a short period of time.

Carvaggio preferred to paint his subjects with intense realism with all of their flaws and defects in contrast to the typical idealized representations produced by Italian Renaissance painters such as Michelangelo. He also differed in his method of painting, preferring the Venetian practice of painting his subjects directly without any traditional lengthy preparatory drawings.

From 1600-1606, Caravaggio received numerous prestigious commissions for religious works, increasing his fame over this period. But for all his success, Caravaggio led an unruly life.  He was known for brawling and was arrested and imprisoned numerous times. In May of 1606, Caravaggio killed (possibly by accident) a man named Ranuccio Tomassoni.  Wanted for murder, he fled Rome for Naples where he also became well known, receiving several important church commissions.

Caravaggio stayed in Naples for only a few months before traveling to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta where he hoped to gain the patronage of the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, who could help him obtain a pardon for his murder charge. The Grand Master was so impressed with Caravaggio that he made him a knight.

In August 1608, Carvaggio was in trouble again after a brawl and was arrested and imprisoned. It was not long after that he was expelled from the Knights and Caravaggio was on the move again – this time to Sicily where his friend Mario Minniti was living.

Caravaggio returned to Naples after nine months in Sicily, still hoping to secure a pardon from the Pope and return to Rome. In 1610,  believing his pardon would be granted, he began his journey by boat back to Rome.  With him were his final three paintings which he planned to give to Cardinal Scipione, who had the power to grant or withhold his pardon. Caravaggio never made it home.

Carvaggio’s death is the subject of much debate. No body was found and there were several accounts of his death including a religious assassination and malaria.  A poet friend of the artist gave July 18, 1610 as his date of death.  In 2001, an Italian researcher claims to have found the death certificate which says that he died on that same date in S Maria Ausiliatrice Hospital of illness.

For a full biography and to view Caravaggio’s complete works, visit Caravaggio-Foundation.org.

Sources: Caravaggio Foundation, MET Museum, BBC, Wikipedia

Michelangelo: 1475-1564

Born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was a Renaissance sculptor, painter, draftsman, architect, and poet. Michelangelo was thought of as the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.

In 1488, at the age of 13, Michelangelo apprenticed with Domenico Ghirlandaio, Florence’s best fresco painter. Following that, he studied with sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni in the Medici gardens in Florence. During this time, he was surrounded by prominent people including Lorenzo de’ Medici (known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent”), who introduced him to poets, artists, and scholars in his inner circle.

Early on, Michelangelo strove for artistic perfection in his depictions of the human body. He studied anatomy with great interest and at one point even gained permission from the prior of the church of Santo Spirito to study cadavers in the church’s hospital. It was at this time that Michelangelo began a life-long practice of preparatory drawing and sketching for his works of art and architecture.

After Medici’s death in 1492, Michelangelo left Florence, traveled to Bologna and eventually to Rome, where he continued to sculpt and study classical works. In 1498-99, the French Ambassador in the Holy See commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt the “Pietà” for Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

In 1501, Michelangelo returned to Florence where he began work on his famous marble statue “David”. This work established Michelangelo’s prominence as a sculptor of incredible technical skill and innovation.

In 1503, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to create his papal tomb which features the famous statue of Moses. The artist worked on the tomb for 40 years, stopping often to work on other commissions including the painting of more than 300 figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from 1508-12.

From 1534 to 1541, Michelangelo produced an enormous fresco “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. “A depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse, the work was controversial even before its unveiling because of the depictions of nude saints in the papal chapel, which were considered obscene and sacrilegious.”

From about 1516, Michelangelo began to focus his attention more on architecture. In 1534, he designed plans for the Medici Tombs and the Laurentian Library attached to the church of San Lorenzo. In 1536, he designed the Piazza del Campidoglio, and in 1546 he was appointed architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica and designed its dome. From 1561-65, Michelangelo’s final plans were for the Porta Pia, a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome.

More than any other artist, “Michelangelo elevated the status of the artist above the level of craftsman. His deeply felt religious convictions were manifested in his art. For him, the body was the soul’s prison. By using movement, monumental forms, and gesture to express spiritual urges, he opened up new artistic vistas in the direction of Mannerism and the Baroque.”

Michelangelo was known to be a complicated man. “Arrogant with others and constantly dissatisfied with himself, he nonetheless authored tender poetry. In spite of his legendary impatience and indifference to food and drink, he committed himself to tasks that required years of sustained attention, creating some of the most beautiful human figures ever imagined.”

“He constantly cried poverty, even declaring to his apprentice Ascanio Condivi: ‘However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man’, yet he amassed a considerable fortune that kept his family comfortable for centuries. And though he enjoyed the reputation of being a solitary genius and continually withdrew himself from the company of others, he also directed dozens of assistants, quarrymen, and stonemasons to carry out his work.”

Michelangelo’s final work in marble, the “Rondanini Pietà,” was left unfinished. He died in Rome on February 18, 1564 at the age of 88.

Related Books:
Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture,
Painting, Architecture
Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times
Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo

Sources: The Getty Museum, Wikipedia, Michelangelo.syr.edu

Alessia Iannetti: Daphne Descends @ Dorothy Circus Gallery

Blue-Throat-Alessia Iannetti

Alessia Iannetti was born in 1985 in Carrara (Italy), where she still lives and works. She enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara, majoring in Painting and studying under Omar Galliani and Fabio Sciortino.

“Her work, characterized by an illustrative style, is nourished by poetic elements, the artist prefers the classical drawing technique, creating an encounter of hyperrealism of subjects, details and a surreal dimension where female characters, evanescent as spirits, reign in a space between infancy and adulthood. Her pale creatures, angels or demons, nymphs of the forest, or gothic lolitas, breathe in a natural, fantastic universe where metaphors and dark symbols pullulate; references of the dream world that send us to Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist Painting. Her moths, little hummingbirds that sew blinding sutures, or nourish through the blood of a sacred heart. Her dragonflies that enlighten the darkness and other fragile tiny insects, getting lost in the thick vegetation to live there hidden as locked secrets. All these arcane elements are re-interpretated in a dark way by the artist, who associate them to the world of literature, horror movies, Indie and Alternative Rock music; an essential ingredient and soundtrack of her creative process.

The exhibition Daphne Descends takes name from the song of the Smashing Pumpkins and follows the mith of Apollo and Daphne. Ten brand new artworks, with Iannetti’s unique style, realized in graphite and oil colors on wood or paper, take us through a surreal exciting fusion with Mother Nature.” ( from artist’s website)

Daphne Descends runs through April 6, 2013. For more information, visit Dorothy Circus Gallery. Check out more of Iannetti’s work at AlessiaIannetti.carbonmade.com

Nicoletta Ceccoli: Girls Don’t Cry @ Roq La Rue Gallery

Italian artist Nicoletta Ceccoli (featured) has a new exhibition entitled “Girls Don’t Cry” on now at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle.

Ceccoli has made a name for herself illustrating children’s books, including winning the prestigious Italian Anderson Prize for best illustrator of the year in 2001. She recently has been showing paintings in US galleries and has already has already garnered great demand for her allegorical, luminous, dream-like paintings, which usually feature characters in occasionally provocative Alice-In-Wonderland type scenarios. Painted in acrylic on paper, each work is meticulously crafted to the point where brush stokes disappear, and each image seems to float within it’s own hazy light.

“Girls Don’t Cry” runs through February 4, 2012. To see more from this exhibition, visit Roq La Rue Gallery. To see previous works, visit NicolettaCeccoli.com.

Andrea Petrachi: Cyber Sculptures

Born in Lecce, Italy in 1975, Andrea Petrachi a.k.a. Himatic creates cyber sculptures from things most of people simply throw away. His work is based on the assembly of everyday items,  discarded electronics, gadgets and toys. Himatic sees his work as a symbol of our out-of-control desire to buy things.

Petrachi will be exhibiting at the EU Robot Festival from November 30, 2011 – December 5, 2011 at the Science Museum, London.

To see more, check out AdreaPetrachi.com.

All images © Andrea Petrachi © photo: Giuseppe Fogarizzu